Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Imaginary friends

So I go to pick up Tricky from preschool and I'm delighted to find him running around, shouting and climbing just like all the other kids. 

He's a bit of a shy one, our Tricky, it takes him a while to warm up in large gatherings and seeing him standing quietly off to one side watching all the other children have fun or clinging to one of the teacher's hands is a weeny bit heartbreaking. Especially for his wussbag of a mother.

Hence, everytime I walk through the gates, I find myself becoming a horrendous blend of Mary Poppins and Julie from the Loveboat.

I pick up his orange backpack and sign him out and then he pulls at my hand and says I want to say bye bye to Henry.

I nearly clap my hands together with glee. At last, I inwardly squeal. A little friend!

I scan the roll but there's no 'Henry' on the list. No matter, I think. Tricky has made friends with one of the big boys from the other class. Nice.

We go out to find Henry, I can't wait to meet him, and Tricky can't see him, but then again - yes he can, no he's gone no he's there, no he's not.

I start to ask the other small children: Where is Henry? Tricky wants to say bye bye, and they give me the blank rolling eye stare so beloved of the teen of their species.
There is no Henry, a very young ladyperson informs me with barely concealed contempt and I laugh this off because remember Soren Lorenson? Lola's imaginary friend? He's darling and she's delightful and she totally has a wonderful life even though no one else can see him. 
Also, I have a friend who I recently learned was bff with an imaginary boy who lived in the gas meter box. He's now in his mid-forties with a lovely wife and children. (The friend, not the imaginary boy who was tragically abandoned when the family moved house and became fully electric.)

And anyway, Tricky has spied Henry now and is dragging me in for the kill. There he is!
I can't see Henry, I say, Is he wearing a blue hat? Has he got a green bag?

No,  says Tricky, exercising his right to speak gibberish; he's gnafferguldrtymf  
We're closing in on a pink moulded plastic cubby house and two small girls are squabbling over who should be allowed to ascend the moulded plastic staircase first.
There he is! Tricky's voice rings with triumph but I still can't see any boy, let alone a boy who's 
gnafferguldrtymf . 

Hello girls, I hear myself say in the ghastly faux-bright voice of the clueless adult; Is there a Henry here?
They look quizzically at each other and then glare ferociously at me. I hear Tricky murmur in my ear: There he is, there's Henry...

What's your name? I ask the girl closest to me and she tells me Mackenzie. Tricky is beaming away and nodding like yes, I said that all along, isn't she beautiful?
Tricky would really like to say bye bye to you I tell her and she nods. I get the distinct impression that small boys always want to say bye bye to her. Having got this far of course Tricky is completely tonguetied and nearly paralysed with shyness. He waves his eyelashes at her.

Oookay then! I smile like an idiot, Bye bye Mackenzie!
Byebyetricky she gives him a half wave and her friend takes the opportunity to nip past her and up the staircase. 

I drag Tricky away, it's never nice to hear the object of your affections consumed with rage and things are starting to get very heated indeed at the moulded plastic cubby house. Instead we walk hand in hand back up to the car, with Tricky giving me all sorts of useful besotted trivia about 'Henry'. After a few seconds of non stop Henryisms I am about ready to ask Tricky just how serious all this is when the local cat swishes up and stops just long enough for a pat. 

And when we continue on, all traces of 'Henry' seem to have gone and he doesn't mention her again.

Almost as if I'd imagined the whole thing.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Now Is The Winter, and it is cold in this tent.

So it's not, actually, Winter, but man it is cold. And outside the wind is blowing a gale.

I'm so cold I've got the heater on and  I'm wearing the stripy woollen jumper my sister AJ gave me from Noo Zillend, my sheepskin slippers I bought way back when C and I used to live with grumpy grandad (ooh yeah they were fun fun times) and my old black jeans with the hole in one knee. 
Helen saw me wearing these jeans once and she told me, very firmly, that I Must Stop wearing them outside the house. Those jeans, she told me, are for Doing The Housework Only.
Since I rarely Do Housework they hardly ever get a good wearing.  

Which means, on cold days when the washing has piled up, they're one of the few clean, ready to wear items in my wardrobe.

For a few weeks too, I've been feeling like the very Worst Parent In The World. Just about every parent feels that, I know, it gets passed around, that particular award - we hold it for a while, burn our fingers on the ice cold metal handles, engrave our name on it, and then one day it's gone. 

I think I got my award not long after the day both C and I forgot to pick up our son from preschool and our nephews from primary school - each thinking the other was going to do it. And I think it went just before the day I took Tricky for an outing to the Powerhouse Museum, one of our favourite haunts. That was the day he threw up in the car, just as I pulled into the carpark. He was saying "Stop the car Mummy, I need a cuddle, I don't feel very well," and I was calling over my shoulder "yes darling, not long now, of course I will give you a cuddle..."

Luckily I had brought the bag he uses for preschool, and in that bag we had put a spare change of clothes. And although I was prepared to just clean him up and drive straight back home, once he had chucked up he became remarkably cheery and quite eager to see the trains and indeed we ended up having a rather marvelous day.

 While at the museum we saw some 'children's theatre', not great writing but enthusiastic delivery. Tricky and I sat on the floor, or at least I sat and he was forcibly restrained by me. This was our first time at an event of this nature where he was old enough to express his displeasure (I WANT TO GOOOO!), some time earlier he came to see a production of one of my children's plays in Newcastle and was perfectly behaved. But then, he was also pre-verbal and probably breast feeding at the time. 

Tricky knows that I (and his father) go to see movies or theatre which he calls "cin-a-tar" as in "Mummy, where are you going? Are you going to the cin-a-tar? Who is looking after me? Pease don't go, pease, pease...I don't want daddy/Aunty N/babysitter/grandmother I want you..." This kind of emotional manipulation also adds a bit of shine to that crap parenting award I mentioned earlier.

So it's cold and the wind is blowing something awful around the house and through the cracks in the airvents but also, I just feel really really down. 

I think finding out about Emil, his sudden death, has really upset me, like not just made me upset but upset my balance, my sense of the way life has stacked up around me. 
Losing a friend and an artist, those two things entwined. 
Someone who started out when I did but who shot way ahead in his field and then fell. 

And a few more things have happened since Emil, things that impact on the way I see myself as a writer and an artist and as an Australian writer and artist. It feels like the whole of my industry could fit into a tent and I stepped outside to take a pee and there's no room for me anymore. And it's frigging cold out here and the wind is blowing and blowing and friends are dying.

Tricky enjoyed the show in the end, luckily, he sang and waved his hands and clapped at the right moment and later at home when I found him setting up his train station as a theatre; with his trains and miniature people as the audience, I felt a great wave of satisfaction. 

I had begun my offspring on that wonderful journey that is the arts; of appreciation, of story and spectacle and creativity, of self doubt and envy, of failure and almost success, of stress, not enough money, deadlines, messy desks and lost potential, opportunity and people.

It's the kind of thing I could get quite depressed about but now it's time to pick up Tricky (nephews on their holidays) and we stop in a park and slide on the slippery dip and play on the swings and the wobbly up down thing and we drive home and we look for strawberries and we find one that has survived the rain and the cold and then we go into the warm house and we eat cake and we drop crumbs all over the floor and I don't clean them up because we are far too busy building our new traintracks.